Monday, February 19, 2007

Requiem for the Doomed


Dear Wilfred Owen,

How is it that we, as a people or as individuals, globally, or singly when standing on a hill under the sun, find it difficult to give up warring? Why is the other cheek so rarely, no matter our religious affiliation, no matter how replete our wealth, no matter the level of our education and experience, no matter how inane the complaint, our response? No, it seems our cheeks must be defended at all costs.

So, we strap our powers upon our thighs and strut. And oh, the strutting does at times seem almost right, upon the rubble in the squares of New York, with bull horn and an eye on the, (how did you say it?) “the arrogance which needs [our] harm.” And with careful preparation, we, for the fight if not for the peace, and with careful preparation, we, for the beginning, if not for the end, so with careful preparation, we, for the death if not for the life, we spy the enemy by satellite and begin to “beat it down before its sins grow worse.”

So we the people, arbiters of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, unite as Eves, and say,
“Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.”

And when he began “his spilling mess-tins” from our own hands, were we surprised?

So now we vote to still the carnage, long after the Pandora of this engagement has outted her box and begun it’s filling with the men and women of the 278th from next door and down the road in Davis County and Tulsa and California and Windsor Castle and Baghdad and Bagdad and Bagdad and Bagdad.

It is never too late to hear the poet. It is never too late to stop whistling while the scythe shaves. But, dear God, it is also never too early.

Dies irae, dies illa,
Solvet Saeclum in Favilla,. . .
Lacrimosa dies illa,
Qua resurget ex favilla,
Judicandus homo reus:
Huic ergo parce Deus.

Wilford, The world should thank you for your dying words. Oh that we would hear them now.

Betsy



Note: Wilfred Owen wrote the poetry, (mostly unpublished before his death on the battlefield, just a week before the armistice that ended WWI) Anthem for the Doomed, that shaped Benjamin Britten's pacifist musical statement entitled War Requiem.

2 comments:

Josh Stock said...

Nope. Not a brass player--I sang bass in the War Requiem at Wheaton College under the direction of John Nelson.

I truly disliked the way the piece sounded from within. The dissonance, the tritones, the 7/8 time all frustrated me. But now, when I listen back to the recording, I hear beauty that I never imagined existed within the piece, even as it depicted the horrors of war.

brd said...

Yes, I understand the frustration and the breaking through to hearing the beauty and interacting in an almost physical way with the horror and moment that it brings in music and lyric. I don't think that the piece could do this without the dissonance.

I think I was on about my sixth listen before I really began to hear what was going on. I can't imagine performing it. It would be so difficult.